Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My congressman won't pee on my leg

I love hearing my congressman in the media, because he invariably sticks his foot in his mouth. That said, if you insult someone by telling them not to pee on your leg, you have no right to complain when you get a response like this in return. Such are the joys of our national circus we call politics.

(CNN) — Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, raised eyebrows last month when he told a constituent at a raucous health care town hall event, "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table."

Now Rep. Pete Stark, D-California, is involved in a similar instant YouTube classic, telling a town-hall participant over the weekend that he wouldn't "waste the urine" to pee on the man's leg.

First reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and confirmed by a YouTube clip of the event, the longtime congressman made the remark after the participant launched into a long, but calm, litany about government inefficiency when it comes to nation's health care system. The man concluded his remarks with warning Stark not to "pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

As the audience cheered, a calm Stark responded: "Well, I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."

There was a mixture of laughter and boos as Stark motioned for the next question.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Czar Wars

Pundits use the title "czar" for high-level executive branch officials who direct or oversee activities on a given topic or who coordinate policies between different departments on a given topic. The drug czar heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the cyber-security czar is the highest-ranking Department of Homeland Security official on computer security and information security policy, etc. The title is also used for specialized advisors to the President, such as the counter-terrorism czar, who (you can probably guess) advises the President on terrorism policy.

Glen Beck, Fox News, and other conservative pundits are making a big protest over how Obama has thirty two of these czars that advise him. The big furor apparently revolves around the fact that czar's aren't approved and answerable to congress, unlike Cabinet positions. Secretary of Defense, State, Homeland Security, etc. So Obama is apparently surrounded himself with unelected and "unaccountable" advisors, and somehow this is some reason Americans should be worried about socialism, bloated government bureaucracy, blah, blah, blah.

Ignoring the chatter of pundits like Beck and focusing on the facts shows that Obama has 31 Czar's in his administration. That's definately more than virtually every administration before him. Czar's have been around since the 40's, but ignoring the ones created during World War Two, there are only typically about one or two of them per administration. To put it in perspective, Reagan had one, Bush Sr. had two, Clinton had six, and George W. Bush had 35 czars. So Obama having 31 is a huge problem for conservatives, yet strangely enough they didn't have any problem with the practice back when George W. Bush was in office. Now that a Democrat is in office, it's ok to attack the President for surrounding himself with "unaccountable" advisors.

There is an argument to be made against the practice, but it's hard to take conservatives seriously when they didn't register a single protest until a Democrat became president. If history is any indication, the righteous indignation of convservatives to take a moral stance against big government always seems to evaporate when a Republican is in office. It's pretty clear that (like health care) conservative pundits aren't serious in debating the issue, as they simply automatically attack the President on any subject with the underlying reasons being that Obama has the audacity to be a Democrat.

In short, nothing has changed for the Party of No.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"If Hitler were alive today, he would be a talk show host"

What a brilliant quote from this Politico article.

I like listening to talk radio because it reminds me of how insane people can get, but I've always took comfort in the fact that it was simply a platform for the fringe and not a serious reflection of the American "mainstream". That said, hearing more and more of the same vitrol reported as factual news during the past two years has been disturbing, but the signal-to-noise ratio has gone completely off the top lately. I mean, I'm getting emails from people comparing Obama to Joseph Stalin, for Christ's sake. It always drove me nuts when my liberal friends called Bush a fascist, as there was so many more valid reasons to dislike Bush than making up crap about him wanting to just bomb brown people and make America a totalitarian state.

IMO, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Keith Obermann, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Ed Shultz, Bill O'Reilly, and pretty much any cable news channel should be labeled as propoganda and treated as the faux-infotainment that it is. Alas, news and talk shows are driven my advertising dollars and not ideology, because if people wouldn't tune in if they didn't like it. Clearly, the public loves hysteria-generated news...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Save $7 billion a month with health care

Just read this at CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A health-care reform bill that includes a public insurance plan and requires employers to cover workers would cost $611 billion over 10 years, far less than previous estimates, according to a new analysis from Congress.


"The completed bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans," Sens. Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, one of two panels working on the legislation.

"In addition, our bill, combined with the work being done by our colleagues in the Finance Committee, will dramatically reduce the number of uninsured — fully 97 percent of Americans will have coverage, a major achievement," they wrote.

So, this plan is effectively $61 billion dollars a year, which is just over $5 billion per month. We spent $12 billion dollars a month in Iraq in 2008, I'd say that pulling that money out of Iraq and investing it into this health care plan would save us $7 billion a month. Not bad.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Character Illustration

(click on the image for the larger version)
Tai is my character for Paul's Kindred of the East campaign. I was fooling around in Photoshop and Illustrator and churned this out. Nothing amazing, but fun to make. ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Insightful Republican commentary on Sotomayor

In the war of rhetoric being spewed about Obama's Supreme Court pick, I thought this Republican commentary was fairly insightful:

Those who have not been able to lay a glove on President Obama, with his 60 percent-plus approval ratings, now think they can define him by smearing Sotomayor.

For a political party that lost an election just six months ago by 9½ million votes, the second largest vote margin of defeat ever for a Republican presidential candidate, you would think we would shut our mouths and figure out how to get more votes in the future.


Let me state that I am sure Sotomayor and I don't agree on very much. And I am sure some of her liberal rulings will drive me nuts. But President Obama won, is a liberal and gets to put liberals on the court. That's the way it works. Ideology aside, is she qualified?

There can be no debate over her qualifications. Her lifetime achievements in the academic world, in the legal world and the judicial world are unchallengeable. If that was the only measure, she would be confirmed unanimously.


The confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor is not the battle to be waged and it won't be won. No one should be brutalized like Judge Robert Bork was in the 1980s. And no one should be rubber-stamped either.Sotomayor is not deserving to be on the Supreme Court because she is Puerto Rican or a woman. She has been appointed by the president because she is extremely well-qualified. Judge those qualifications fairly and without malice. To do less will antagonize Hispanic and female voters, two voter groups Republicans must do better with to have any chance of electoral success.


Republicans are in a position where we are the underdogs. Unfortunately, no one is cheering for us to win. These nationally televised hearings may be an opportunity for Republican senators to take a step in the right direction. Don't treat her like a lady. Treat her like an extremely qualified American who the president chose to elevate to the nation's highest court.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Great quote about Game Mastering from Dreaming Cities

If you want your players to think you are the best Game Master in the world, you only have one option: cheat, and cheat often. Never make a single dice roll without thinking to yourself, “Hmmm ... if I cheat and change the result of this roll, will I make it a better game?” In the games of Game Mastering and roleplaying, there are no rules about “being fair,” “sticking to the dice roll,” or “being honest with the players.” There is only one rule: make your game the best it can be. As Einstein once said, “Gott w├╝rfelt nicht (God does not play dice),” and neither should you. Dice are only a tool to suggest how you should make up your mind. You make the decisions, not the dice.

-- BESM Dreaming Cities, page 115

Saturday, May 2, 2009

200th post spent complaining about the GOP. What else is new?

Since I'm no fan of one party rule (even my own), I keep hoping the GOP will pull themselves back from irrelevancy. The problem is they keep coming up with more public relations schemes rather than addressing the fundamental issues facing the country and their party. If they can't address those, then the only way they will get back into power is that they become as bad as the Republicans became under Bush. I don't want another failed administration in charge of my nation, so I'm hoping the Republicans will regain their focus and present coherent ideas

Unfortunately, the National Council for a New America initiative is their latest attempt at PR spin.

You would think that Republicans don't need more PR spin, but rather they need ideas that resonate with the voters, but apparently it's simply easier to ignore the fact that they doubled the national debt from $5B under Clinton to $10B under Bush, and now they are full of righteous indignation that Obama has take it to $12B. Their credibility on this issue is slim to non-existant, but they do have a legitmate concern regarding increased debt. Of course, the only solution they mention is "smaller government", but the National Council for a New America certainly doesn't give us anything other than slogans about what "smaller government" really looks like.

For instance, if you are for smaller government, then tell us exactly what you plan on cutting. Talking about earmark reform or pork (which accounts for a sliver of a fraction of the overall budget) isn't an answer. Just how exactly do you plan on cutting back the major expenditures in the Federal budget, such as Medicare & Medicaid (23% of budget), Social Security (21% of budget), or Defense (21% of budget)? Apparently cutting the amount the defense budget increases from 15% to 4% is apparently too draconian for the Republicans. How do you plan on convincing the elderly or poor that they should vote for you after slashing Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid?

Until you can convince the American people that they need to receive drastically less services from the federal government (ie, the "you are on your own" theory of government), then you have to face the reality that these programs aren't vanishing.

I mean, why do you think McCain kept talking about earmarks during the '08 campaign, rather than talking about a coherant vision for what a smaller government would really look like for the millions of citizens in this country.

The reality of it is that GOPs vision of smaller government isn't any different than the Democrats. The real difference is where they spend the money... which is to whatever pleases their constituents.

Hence, the song remains the same and the Republicans continue cementing themselves into minority status.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lost about The Variable

While it wasn't in the same ballpark as The Constant, The Variable is a darn good episode and delivers exactly what we expect from Lost. Four out of five stars.

IMO, the episode did what this show does best: it used flashbacks to not only answer and create the mysteries surrounding the plot, but the episode fleshed out the history of the characters and makes them even more compelling to watch. While I had some issues as to what happened outside of the flashbacks (the 1977 island scenes), the strength of how they presented Faraday’s character and how that propelled the overall story eclipsed most of the problems I had with the story.

Ok. That’s the praise. Here are the criticisms.

The "Daniel Faraday comes clean regarding what he knows about the island" description of the episode was certainly disingenuous. While we certainly learned more about Faraday, he certainly didn't "come clean" with what he knows with the other survivors. He told Jack that he doesn't belong, that he needed the bomb to stop The Incident, and that he believes that people can change the past. That's pretty slim pickings when it comes to what he knows about the island.

What Faraday did on the island in 1977 was to planting a seed of doubt in Jack regarding his destiny, telling Dr. Chang to evacuate the entire island (with presumably their one submarine), and then told Jack and Kate that using the hydrogen bomb would change the future.

As to the first item (talking to Jack about destiny), that felt like an incredibly forced scene to me. I could almost see the hands of the writers steering characters this way and that. Faraday shows up on the island, runs to Jack's house, quickly states that Jack doesn't belong, and then runs out without any further explanation to the Orchid station. Not only doesn't it make a lick of sense, but it was blatantly obvious to be forced scene by the writers to dribble out information. Another great example of this is Hurley having absolutely no idea about the Sawyer & crew being in 1954. After everything the survivors have been through, it seems insane to think that they haven't at least told each other the basics of what happened since they last saw each other. I absolutely hate it when characters in Lost act stupid in order to perpetuate on-screen drama, as it reminds me of the annoying bits of Season 3 (like the Others being upset that the survivors don’t trust them) instead of the far more believable scenes of Seasons 1 & 4.

As to the second item, while the photo of Jack, Hurley and Kate brings Faraday back to the island, what prompted Faraday to suddenly run to the Orchid Station? How does he know that the energy under the Swan and Orchid station was going critical before he eavesdrops on Dr. Chang and the construction foreman? In his conversation with Miles after Dr. Chang leaves, it’s clear that Faraday knows that some of the Dharma folks (like Miles and his mother) will be evacuated. How he learned it is a mystery, and again, Faraday certainly didn’t say anything to give us a clue about it.

The third item, Faraday’s variable theory of time-travel and using Jughead to change history, came totally out of left field. After watching the concept of "what happened, happened" being hammered into our heads for at least an entire season, I was fairly surprised to see Faraday-the-Time-Travel-Expert suddenly claim that free will supersedes destiny. The writers are clearly setting up Faraday’s plan with Jughead and the Swan to be the center point of season finale, and the kick off for whatever twist carries us into the final season. While I’m fine with that, I’m completely at a loss to figure out why Faraday suddenly believes that free will trumps destiny. Everything we’ve seen has shown us otherwise, and frankly Faraday’s death and his mother’s foreknowledge doesn’t give me a lot of faith that he is barking up the right tree.

Erasing the history of the previous five seasons sounds like a really dubious place for the show to go, but that’s exactly what Faraday is proposing. It’s dangerously close to the “Then They Woke Up” method of storytelling, and hopefully it’s just a plot device to motivate Jack. Right now, I am assuming that Jack will use Jughead to create/stop/deal with The Incident and the results will be what has always happened, and thus history will not be erased. Unfortunately, that would mean that time travel expert’s variable theory is wrong, and so Faraday would essentially die for no logical reason, except to provide a plot point.

Pretty crappy options, if you ask me.

As for other items…

Dr. Chang’s research is classified, but he’ll tell the construction foreman that they are trying to manipulate time?

Those submarines are fast. It’s only been a couple days since the new Dharma recruits were dropped off, so a copy of the photo of the new recruits must have been sent back with the sub, and Faraday and the Swan crew in Michigan immediately came back to the island. Perhaps the island is in the Atlantic now? ;)

Desmond doesn’t own bulletproof groceries, and he beat the crap out of Ben after being shot. This guy is still my favorite character on the show. Pity he gets hardly any screen time in Season 5…

Speaking of lack of screen time, Jin is sliding into irrelevance. Beyond his scenes with Russeau in the 80s, and running around the Flame Station for an episode looking for Sun, he’s pretty much been a glorified extra in Season 5. His contribution to this episode is saying that he won’t leave without Sun during the meeting, and then he vanishes into obscurity again.

Penny’s mother isn’t Eloise Hawking, since we know that Widmore was banished from the island after having a kid with an outsider. Since Hawking is an Other, clearly Penny’s unknown mom is that outsider.

Why did Widmore need to sacrifice his relationship with his daughter, and why did he bring it up? Hawking’s real sacrifice of her son makes Widmore’s line seem even more pathetic, and the slap he received that much more deserved. From the cunning mastermind and ex-leader of the Others, that was a boneheaded line from Widmore.

Faraday experimented on himself (and then Theresa) after Desmond’s visit during The Constant. Theresa becomes catatonic and Faraday loses his memory. The only explanation I have for why Faraday’s notebook is filled with Dharma notes (like the Orchid symbol) is that he became mentally unstuck in time during the experiment. He lost his memory, but periods of lucidity allowed him to jot down fragments of what he learned, thus filling the notebook with valuable, but enigmatic, information. I thought that might be why Faraday knows about what is happening with the Swan and Orchid stations, but he’s dead by the time The Incident occurs. How would it explain how he knows that there is only six hours until something catastrophic happens to the Swan, or that some of the Dharma folks (like Miles and his mom) will escape the island? Unless his time travel experiment was even stranger that previously assumed, Faraday never experiences any of this first hand.

Ok. Enough nitpicking. Despite all of the above, just like with Charlie’s death, Faraday’s death sets up Jack & crew to really shine in the final few hours of the season.

The preview for Follow The Leader looks amazing, and I’m sure that combined with the Incident, I’m going to be a very happy camper.

I can’t wait until next week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A poll to talk about over tea

I just saw this on CNN:
A national Gallup poll conducted last week finds that 48 percent of Americans say the amount of federal income taxes they pay is about right. That's two points higher than the forty-six percent of those questioned who felt that the taxes they pay were too high. It's also the most positive assessment on taxes that Gallup's measured in six years.

"Most of the movement in the Gallup poll came among people who make less than $75,000 a year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "A majority of people in that category say their taxes are not too high, and they are the ones that the Obama administration has been targeting with their tax policy and their message on taxes. Maybe that message is being heard."

When I'm reading about the astro-turf tea party protests, I can't help laughing when I read stuff like this. Then again, I can't get worked up about the right being outraged over Obama over-spending, considering that the same people were cheerleading the Republican party for eight years of big government excess and spending.

I mean really, what's different? Oh yeah! Their party isn't in power anymore, so I guess it's ok to start screaming about small government again. *snort* Such hipocrates...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From Spin to Reality

After all the fire and brimestone regarding Jindal, Sanford and Palin refusing to accept any stimulus money, guess who caved and asked for money from the feds? I just read this in Politico:
The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge.

But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. All three of those governors have been forced to scale back their expectations, to varying degrees, as the push of conservative philosophy gave way to the pull of political reality.

All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

[Lost] Can they change the future?

No. Faraday says quite clearly at the beginning of the first episode of the fifth season that you cannot change the future. He goes so far as saying that attempting to change time will always fail. He says in that episode that what ever happens, happened.

The survivors who are currently in the Dharmaville barracks in 1977 are only simply watching a scene unfold. While they are participants, no matter what they do, young Ben will have always been taken by Richard to the Temple. Ben eventually loses his innocence and becomes the amoral killer we know in 1977, and that happens no matter what the survivors do. Not even Sayid shooting young Ben will alter this fact. It's now simply a reason why he had to go the Temple.

That said, Faraday also says that Desmond is the only person that the rules don't apply to, as he is uniquely and miraculously special. Unlike everyone else, Desmond remembers in his present whenever something alters his past. This is because the past and future can potentially be changed around Desmond.

Even so, the universe will course correct around any attempted changes around Desmond. Remember, he couldn't save Charlie from dying, no matter what he did

Desmond did prevent Charlie from being electricuted, drowning while trying saving to save Claire, and being killed by one of Russeau's traps. While Desmond ultimately couldn't stop Charlie from drowning in the Looking Glass station, the universe ultimately did "course correct" in order to insure that Charlie died and that the timeline was restored. Despite that, Desmond was able to change the future, as Charlie wasn't never electrocuted.

That is the extent to which the future could be changed. This means that the our survivors can only make negligable changes the future at best, if they are able to make any changes at all.

As they cannot change the past, they cannot create an alternate timeline. There is only one timeline, and it unfolds the way it has always unfolded. If there are any discrepancies, then it's like as Miles said, we just haven't experienced how it all turns out yet.

Now, it's possible that Faraday is wrong and everything written up above could off base, but I think Lost spelled out exactly what's going on with time travel in the very first episode of the season.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Talk about The Party of No...

After all the hullabaloo about the alternative GOP budget, I was a bit surprised to read this in Politico.

About twice as many Republicans (38 or 20 percent of their conference) voted against the GOP alternative budget -- than Democrats (20 or 8 percent) who nixed their party's spending plan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


If you are accused of commiting a crime, you get a trial with a jury of your peers, and if you are found guilty, you have to pay the piper.

Losing an election should never be an excuse for dismissing criminal charges. When is the last time you've heard of the government asking a judge to drop the charges *after* the jury has convicted the defendant? Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Justice Department is doing in the corruption case of former Senator Ted Stevens.

Christ, this article is infuriating. What is next? Dismissing ex-Rep. William Jefferson's 16 corruption charges because he lost his election?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department asked a federal court Wednesday to "set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment" in the corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, court documents show.

Stevens, 85, was convicted in October on seven counts of lying on mandatory financial disclosure forms.

Stevens hid "hundreds of thousands of dollars of freebies" he received from an oil field services company and its CEO, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Matthew Friedrich said.

Many of the alleged free services were given as part of a renovation of Stevens' Alaska home.

Stevens maintained his innocence even after the conviction, and his sentencing has been delayed amid charges by an FBI agent of prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevens lost a re-election bid in November to Democrat Mark Begich, who had been Anchorage's mayor.

Stevens was appointed to the Senate in December 1968.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There is chocolate in my peanut butter

The following video takes two things I enjoy (watching LOST with Robin and Spongebob Squarepants with the kds) and puts both shows into one video.


Words fail.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lost clips featuring Hurley

Hurley and the sea urchin

Hurley on effective parenting

Hurley on driving

Clear now?

For people who don't know about Lost, Hurley (one the characters on the show) explains everything that has been going on in this video:


That should clear everything up. ;)

Friday, March 27, 2009

The GOP Plan: Have no plan.

The party of binge spending, the GOP, has been bashing Obama's budget to the point of histronics lately. Of course, after the rants were over, Democrats kept asking the GOP to provide their own suggested budget. Essentially, put your money where you mouth is.

You can probably guess what their budget turned out like after they released it yesterday...

This is a Video of a GOP Representative talking about their 19 page budget that contains no numbers, but only more answer-free criticism of what Obama's doing.

This is the video of the Press Secretary talks about the GOP's new budget.

Wake me when the party of binge spending can formulate a coherent rebuttal to the party of steady spending increases.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lost Season 1 Promo


What's interesting about this video (beyond the surreal dancing in the plane wreck), is the fact that who they are dancing with is a pretty good indication of what happens later in the story.

Who would have guessed that Mugwumps were Republicans?

I've read and watched The Naked Lunch probably too many times in my life, so I've always associated the word "Mugwump" with a creature that prowls the hallucinatory Interzone. They are hedonistic predators in a surreal environment that look like this:

So you can imagine my surprise when I'm reading an wikipedia article on Grover Cleveland, and it turns out that Mugwumps were a group of Republican activists who supported Cleveland (the Democratic candidate) in the 1884 presidential election. According to Wikipedia:

Dictionaries report "mugguomp" was an Algonquian word meaning "person of importance" or "war leader." Charles Anderson Dana, the colorful newspaperman and editor of the now-defunct New York Sun, is said to have given the Mugwumps their political moniker. Dana made the term plural and derided them as amateurs and public moralists.

During the 1884 campaign, they were often portrayed as "fence-sitters," with part of their body on the side of the Democrats and the other on the side of the Republicans. (Their "mug" on one side of the fence, and their "wump" on the other.)

Even stranger, apparently "Neo-Mugwump" is apparently another term for RINO: Republican In Name Only. Meaning, we almost elected a Neo-Mugwump for president in 2008. ;)

I don't know what to say, given that one of the wierdest images in my life is apparently a Republican movement...

It's like discovering that chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among foods us Westerners typically eat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Daily Show on CNBC's financial reporting

For those of you living under a rock and haven't seen these videos, then here are the links:

Jon Stewart railing against CNBC

Jon Stewart railing on Cramer after Cramer reponds to Stewart's original rant

Cramer interviewed on the Daily Show

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why I am annoyed Rep. Pete Stark ... again

Once again, my representative has the worst voting record in the entire House.

Pete Stark has missed nearly 57% of the votes so far in the 111th Congress. 57% @(#&#@(& percent.

It turns out that the only Representative with a worse record than he does actually has an excuse: Rep. Hilda Solis has missed 75.6% of the votes because she is our new Secretary of Labor, so her seat in the House is currently empty.

I'd love to hear what his excuse is...

Sometimes, actors say the stupidest things

As you can tell by this CNN article, stupidity apparently isn't limited to the Hollywood loonies on the left, but the ones on the right as well.

[Chuck] Norris wrote that he would be interested in becoming the president of Texas, if the state were ever to secede from the Union.

“I may run for president of Texas,” Norris wrote Monday in a column posted at WorldNetDaily. “That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.”

The actor claimed “thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation” and said that if states decide to secede from the union, that Texas would lead the way.

“Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we'd do if the going got rough in America,” Norris wrote. “Let there be no doubt about that.”

There would be no doubt at all. Texas would get their ass handed to them, just like the South did after the Civil War. You know, back long before the Federal government (and U.S. military) was as powerful and authoritarian as it is today?

That secession plan didn't work out so hot for the South last time, but perhaps Chuck Norris is just nostalgic for the reconstruction / carpet bagging era…


Beyond knowing that John McCain hates them, and that the Republicans don't like them when the Democrats are in charge, the following CNN Money article goes into detail into what the hell earmarks actually are.

I suggest reading the article, but here are the highlights:

... Republicans, who have sought unsuccessfully to amend the $410 billion fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday night. That bill is estimated to have $7.7 billion worth of earmarks requested by lawmakers -- or about 2% of the total bill.

In any given year, earmarks requested by members of the majority party typically account for 60% of earmarks, with the remaining 40% coming from members of the minority party.

Typically, when Congress appropriates federal funding to government agencies, it's up to the agencies to decide how that money gets doled out to projects in states, cities and counties, and those decisions are made through an application-and-review process.


Most typically, an earmark is defined as a slice of the money allocated to an agency that a lawmaker or the president has requested be set aside for a specific project.

So earmarks aren't additional spending -- they're a portion of the total amount lawmakers have agreed to spend for a given year.

"If earmarks go, the amount of money stays the same. It's more about who decides how the money will be spent," said Charles Konigsberg, a former assistant budget director in the Clinton administration and now chief budget counsel at deficit watchdog group the Concord Coalition.

While there have always been earmarks, their number grew exponentially between 1995 and 2006. That's partly because lawmakers began to use earmarks as a way to help incumbents who risked losing re-election, Ellis said. And part of it was a feedback loop: as earmarks grew, so did the ranks of lobbyists to secure them.

"More earmarks begat more lobbyists begat more earmarks," Ellis said.

Today, earmarks can number several thousand a year. But in the end, their total dollar amount typically represents less than 1% of the federal budget.

"People think big chunks of the federal budget are being shoved into earmarks, and it's just not the case," Konigsberg said.

"Some are worthwhile projects, but they're the product of a bad system," Ellis said.

It's a system based on "political muscle rather than merit," he said. Translation: Senior members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees typically get the most earmarks.

Is there a better way?

Ellis believes Congress should set up an objective, merit-based earmark system that establishes a list of priorities. Transportation projects, for example, could be required to meet criteria that reflect national priorities such as improving traffic density, commuter safety or energy efficiency.

"Right now, no one can tell me why one project gets money and another doesn't," Ellis said.

Some experts say the biggest problem with earmarks is that their status as budget-bad-boy is overblown, detracting from the real trouble with federal spending.

As astonishing as the government's debt levels may be in the short-run because of the financial crisis -- well over a $1 trillion deficit this year alone -- the long-run picture is much uglier because of the pressures entitlement programs will place on the federal budget.

Left unchanged, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid alone, which now accounts for roughly 5% of GDP, is projected to grow to more than 6% in 2019 and to 12% by 2050, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And that doesn't include the growing cost of Social Security and other government spending.

"The impact of earmarks has been overemphasized; they're a red herring," Konigsberg said. "So much attention is paid to them and so little attention is paid to our long-term fiscal condition."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Man, I love The Onion

ARKHAM, MA—Arguing that students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon in order to develop the skills they need to be driven to the very edge of sanity, Arkham school board member Charles West continued to advance his pro-madness agenda at the district's monthly meeting Tuesday.

"Fools!" said West, his clenched fist striking the lectern before him. "We must prepare today's youth for a world whose terrors are etched upon ancient clay tablets recounting the fever-dreams of the other gods—not fill their heads with such trivia as math and English. Our graduates need to know about those who lie beneath the earth, waiting until the stars align so they can return to their rightful place as our masters and wage war against the Elder Things and the shoggoths!"

The controversial school board member reportedly interrupted a heated discussion about adding fresh fruit to school lunches in order to bring his motion to the table. With the aid of a flip chart, West laid out his six-point plan for increased madness, which included field trips to the medieval metaphysics department at Miskatonic University, instruction in the incantations of Yog-Sothoth, and a walkathon sponsored by local businesses to raise money for the freshman basketball program.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1) Attack Democrats. 2) ... 3) Profit!

(CNN) “I tell you, that moment was not our best moment,” he said. “It would have been our best shot at winning the White House a chance to offer a true authentic, conservative choice rather than a big government echo, rather than a meek, ‘me too’ way of doing things.”

... and what choice would that be? *crickets chirping*

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Now, don't get me wrong. I expect the Republicans to attack anything the Democrats do, regardless of outcome. After all, the Democrats do the exact same thing.

No, what annoys the crap out of me is that GOP never seems capable of backing up their words with a coherent solution that isn't just a redmeat filled soundbite.

If you have a worthwhile idea, then present an alternative that reflects the problem. The issues facing our country are complex and require a degree of critical thinking and sacrifice. So, don't present a solution that could have been hastily written on a cocktail napkin.

Developing economic strategy in a manner similar to the Underpants Gnomes from South Park isn't exactly a winning solution, nor reassuring that you are competent enough to be handed the reigns of government again.

IMO, the Republicans are on a trajectory for remaining in the wilderness for a few more years. They are doing their best to sound like the Democrats in 2002. ie, ideologically bankrupt, reactionary, and completely and totally irrelevant.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Your suffering is my opportunity. Vote for me.

I couldn't help laughing when I read the following editorial on Politico.
Some Republican governors, who normally like federal tax bucks, now want to turn them down. Why? Because they aren’t just tax bucks, they are “Obama-bucks.”

They are bucks from President Obama’s stimulus plan, and if these bucks put people back to work and let people hang on to their homes, he and the Democrats might get the credit.

And that would never do.


Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana who often has “rising star” and “presidential hopeful” attached to his name, also said he didn’t want some of the federal money.

But under questioning by David Gregory on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Jindal seemed to wilt a little when it came to explaining why.

“Well, let’s be clear,” Jindal said, not being clear at all. “The best thing that Washington could do to help Louisiana and all of our states with our budgets is to get this economy moving again.”

Gee, thanks. But don’t get him wrong. While some people see these times as filled with pain and suffering, Jindal sees them as an opportunity. A political opportunity.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Save! Save! Oh crap! Spend! Spend!

TOKYO — As recession-wary Americans adapt to a new frugality, Japan offers a peek at how thrift can take lasting hold of a consumer society, to disastrous effect.

The economic malaise that plagued Japan from the 1990s until the early 2000s brought stunted wages and depressed stock prices, turning free-spending consumers into misers and making them dead weight on Japan’s economy.


Japan’s aging population is not helping consumption. Businesses had hoped that baby boomers — the generation that reaped the benefits of Japan’s postwar breakneck economic growth — would splurge their lifetime savings upon retirement, which began en masse in 2007. But that has not happened at the scale that companies had hoped.

Economists blame this slow spending on widespread distrust of Japan’s pension system, which is buckling under the weight of one of the world’s most rapidly aging societies. That could serve as a warning for the United States, where workers’ 401(k)’s have been ravaged by declining stocks, pensions are disappearing, and the long-term solvency of the Social Security system is in question.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/business/worldbusiness/22japan.html

My 401K has been hammered... but I can't look at my retirement investments in the short term. Right now they are in the tank, but I'm not going to be touching that money for at least another 30 years. In that time, the U.S. will go through multiple booms and recessions before I retire. I feel for all the people who are looking to retire in the near future, however this is a huge warning/reminder for people to slowly shift their investments out of the stock market and into more secure funds the closer to retirement age you go. People that ignored this old advice (or just didn't pay attention their investment) ended up gambling with their retirement funds or assumed that the bubble/boom time wasn't ending anytime soon.

This sucks right now, but at least I can give thanks that I have a stable job and it's not the end of the U.S.

Fast Times during a Down Economy

It's interesting seeing that despite the rollcoaster ride, I'm insanely busy at work... and have very little time to check the net, Facebook or the blog. We went from a dead period for a few months, which we were busy trying to complete all the task we've ignored since we were last busy. After the calendar year changed, most of the clients we deal with started issuing RFPs and RFQs, and so we went from zero to seven proposals crossing my desk in no time flat. Of course, virtually every submittal has the envitable presentation preparation section, where I make posters, animations, power point shows, and where I practically live in Photoshop working with aerial photography.

So, while I'm working late nights, I'm watching news of the economy going south... and I consider myself a very lucky guy to have a stable job with a firm showing signs of growth. Heck, my company is flying me out to their corporate HQ next week, so I'll have a night or two running about Manhatten having a good time.... like having a hotel room about two blocks from the Complete Strategist, a game store in New York. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Comedy Gold

(NYT) "Mr. Bush said he was not certain why he had become so divisive. “I don’t know why they get angry,” he replied to a question about those who disagreed with his policies so vehemently that it became personal. “I don’t know why they get hostile.” He added that he had learned not to pay attention."
Gee, do you think the two things are related?

Where have I heard this before

(BBC) "... senior Hamas leader and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya stated in a televised address from a secret location in Gaza that the group was "approaching victory".

"I tell you that after 17 days of this foolish war, Gaza has not been broken and Gaza will not collapse," he said.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My favorite Rock Band 2 song

"Conventional Lover", Speck

Who left you hanging on that peg all alone
You look near mint to me babe and I wanna make you my own
I wanna be your captain, my Pon Farr is a-risin’
So step on over here girl, my love is enterprisin'

Let me be your conventional lover
Let me show you some conventional love
I don't mean to boast, I don't mean to brag (ooh love long and prosper)
But I'm a man whose only issues all come in mylar bags

Let me be your conventional lover
Let me give you my conventional love I'll give you my heart,
I'll treat you nice (ooh love long and prosper)
And the games that I play only have twenty-sided dice
They're polyhedral!

Let's hit the dealer's room and you something fine
That collectors bust of Cthulhu reminds me of how you blow my mind
Now let me take you dancing in my best Starfleet dress uniform
You'll want to tap my mana once you’ve seen me perform



And when we get to mating, I'll always treat you kind
I'll never bend you too far back or ever crease your spine
But there's one thing I won't promise, there's one thing I won't do
Can't leave you in the box babe, this collector is coming through


Let me be your conventional lover
Let me give you my conventional love
I'll give you my heart, I'll treat you fine
And I'll make sweet love to you while we're watching Deep Space Nine

Best. Headline. Ever.

Now probably a ‘bad time’ for Jeb to run for W.H.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – His son hasn’t left the White House yet, but former president George H. W. Bush is already thinking about the next Bush who might one day move in. The elder Bush says his oldest son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has all the qualities necessary to occupy the Oval Office.

“I’d like to see him run, I’d like to see him be president some day,” the nation’s 41st chief executive declared on “Fox News Sunday.” He is “as qualified and as able as anyone I know in the political scene."

However, the senior Bush acknowledged, “Right now is probably a bad time, because we've got enough Bushes in there.”


God lord, I haven't laughed that hard in a very long time.